Critique Sites: The Blind Leading the Blind?

So many writing and “critique” sites out there promise that you will get feedback when you upload your work. FictionPress, Critique Circle, Figment, Booksie, etc., all have friendly communities of people who are willing to help you.

But… the majority of “critique” sites out there are made up of n00b writers who have very little knowledge of the craft of fiction. This is not a bad thing at all; we’re all n00bs at some point and the support and friendship of other n00bs is great, but when it comes to improving our craft, how helpful can these sites and their members be?

To get a real critique, I think it’s more valuable to speak to people in person – people who are as serious about writing as we are. Now, some of these people may be found in online “critique” groups, but they’re definitely rarities.

I’m on FictionPress (it’s my favorite of all the “critique” sites) and I enjoy getting reviews and “critiques” there, even if they’re only something like “good chapter.” I love knowing that my readers are enjoying the story and taking the time to comment on it. But I’ve gotten very few critiques that I can use to improve my writing. Is it because readers are too shy to say something they think is negative? Or is it because they don’t have adequate knowledge of the craft or don’t know how to critique well?

So are “critique” sites just blind n00b writers leading other blind n00b writers? Does it all depend on who you network with? In-person critiques or online? Share your thoughts! ๐Ÿ™‚

11 thoughts on “Critique Sites: The Blind Leading the Blind?

  1. I have little faith in anything on-line, so take my comments for what they’re worth. That being said, having human beings get together in one room always works better for me, whether it’s a critique group or a class. To use a techie term, there’s much more bandwidth in reality than across wires.

    Of course, not all such groups are equal. I have the fortune of belonging to a group in my community that has professional writers as the leaders. That’s probably the important element.

    Like

    • I do agree that the more experienced should lead – that’s often the problem with some critique groups; there are no clear leadership roles and everything ends up getting jumbled. Thanks, Greg!

      Like

  2. I agree with this… I find the concept of beta readers (when used as editors) to be strange to me… It’s not something I would do. To me the logic is the same as kids who compare homework and come up with different answers, they would have been better off asking a teacher.

    Like

  3. A long time ago, I belonged to Critters which is an on-line critique group. Although most critiques were not helpful there were people who were very, very knowledgable. You might try it. Otherwise, learned critiquing is what you get in college writing courses. You also will find knowledgable people at writing conventions. There are events like Claridon, where professional sf and fantasy authors teach writing sf and fantasy. Don’t waste your time worrying abou the dross. Most of what you will encounter in life is chaf. Look for the wheat, keep your mind on the wheat; it’s the wheat you are after. (Or buckwheat, brown rice, and millet if you have celiac disease.)

    Like

    • Maybe I should try that website… hmm…
      But it is true that I learned more about critiquing in college courses than I did online, probably because in college your grade depends on giving a good critique! Thank you for the suggestion, Cynthia! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

  4. Maggie
    You’re right, of course, many of the on-line writing sites are just groups pandering to their own egos. “I’ll like your work if you’ll say you like mine.” There is no cheese down that tunnel… or is there?
    I spent a year and a half on WEbook.com, and it turned my writing life around. I met a good many writers, many of whom I am still in contact with (nrhatch is one of them).
    What I learned about the shotgun approach to critiques (as I’ve come to call it) is that while a lot of what I heard missed the mark entirely, some hit the target square on.
    I also worked out (eventually) that if a lot of people came to my work and read it, even if their responses were an insipid “I leik it” (sic), I could take the number of responders as a mark of progress.
    Popularity of your work–think about the large number of people who read this blog–may be very different from critical response, but it all helps in its own way.
    Clearly not everone is capable of reasonable critique. Not everyone appreciates what it takes to produced a polished bit of prose (in fact, I’d wager that only writers have an inkling about that).
    What I finally did is to join a professional club. Out my way we have the California Writers Club (CWC, founded in 1909). I’ve become president of my branch, and once again my life (in writing) has changed.
    Putting yourself in contact with people who love what you love, do what you do, can make a tremendous difference.

    Like

    • Thank you, Rik. I should definitely scope out some writers’ organizations in my state. I know of a few… and in-person commentary is much better. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

  5. I find in-person critique groups to be…difficult. For one thing, there aren’t always groups available to people who live in somewhat rural areas. Also, they have never been able to provide a detailed critique – at least not to the standard I prefer. Most of the time it’s simply, “I liked/didn’t like this” with no real structure or advice to back it up. Another issue is most in-person groups are relatively small. Some may argue that is a plus, but I find it to be a disadvantage unless the group is specifically focusing on one genre. Otherwise you have two Fantasy writers, one Memoir writer, three Sci-fi writers, and another Literary writer. It’s difficult to find common ground in style and theme within a group like that. Online sites open you up to more people and you have a better chance of finding like-minded writers.

    Good online critique sites are just as difficult to come by unfortunately. I have been lucky enough to find Scribophile.com. It is a wonderful eclectic mix of writers in all stages from the newest n00b to professionally published. This site works on a Karma basis. In order to post a piece (short, flash, poem, novel chapter) you need 5 Karma points. In order to earn Karma points you have to critique (X amount of words needed to reach even a fractional amount). This encourages members to give well-thought out critiques. We also have the forums which are helpful, fun, or procrastinator worthy. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Word of caution for a majority of the online sites, FictionPress included: these sites are not Private. Anyone can look at the stories posted WITHOUT becoming a member and signing in. This means, technically, your work is PUBLISHED. If you try to get your work published through a publishing house, they may reject you since they can’t claim First Publishing Rights and why bother spending money to publish work that is available to the public for free?

    Like

    • I’ve never joined an in-person critique group because I live in one of those rural areas where fellow writers are hard to come by and driving to the nearest metropolitan area is a little bit difficult, especially with gas prices being the way they are. Scribophile sounds like a good site – similar to Critique Circle, which also has a “karma”-based system. You do get good critiques there and it helps you practice your own critiquing skills.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Like

Comments are closed.